Saturday, July 26, 2014

İzmir Update 7/26/14

Hello again eworld. I haven't posted for a few days because my last post ended up on the cutting room floor. It was mainly about a book I just finished reading called Always Know What to Say and about how the book's content can be applied to second language learning. In the end, the post was a stream-of-consciousness mess, but I did really like one section I wrote. It went like this:

I’m a cheapskate. That’s how I came across the book I’m currently reading. The other night I finished Valley of Wild Horses by Zane Grey, a book I don’t particularly recommend, and now I’m reading another which I’ll say more about here. Before I get there, though, I’ll point out to my fellow Kindle owners that both of these books are free.

Now that I have a Kindle, I’ve been scouring the Free on Kindle books on Amazon. At this point, I have no intentions to buy a book for my Kindle as long as I can. (These are the weird sort of Faustian deals that cheapskates make with themselves.) Thus, I am limited to three kinds of reading material: First, there are books in the public domain (which is how I came across Valley of Wild Horses. And then there are samples of books (twenty-thirty page excerpts). Sometimes these samples are interesting for checking out those authors whom I don’t really like but are sort of worth paying attention to because they’re prominent contemporary voices—Dave Eggers, Johnathan Franzen, Joshua Ferris, etc. Finally, there are the free contemporary books and stories that they give away on Kindle for free because, well, they kinda suck. For the this reason, I’m now reading Always Know to Say. It’s a self-help book that I’m embarrassingly getting quite a bit out of as long as I ignore the style of the author's prose and focus on the gist.

But like I said, the post didn't really work out.

Tonight I'm here to make a marvellous comeback by listing Three Things That Have Been on My Mind:

1) Cats

There is a park in İzmir called İzmir Kültürpark. At İzmir Kültürpark, there is an outside area maintained by a nice man named Erkan that houses somewhere around forty cats, most of which are kittens. Erkan keeps the cat houses as clean as he can and feeds and waters the cats daily. He's a saint. Today there was a dead kitten (there's a lot of sickness going on--eye infections, colds, etc.), and he gave it a proper burial. It's easy to tell that he loves the cats, and he seems excited that Jena and I come to visit the cats most days. Just the other night Erkan found some pieces of rope for Jena and me, and we played with kittens for over an hour.

For the record, I'm pretty sure these kittens are safe to pet. Jena and I don't get too intimate with them, but once in a while one will climb up your leg. Or, you'll have the uncontrollable impulse to pick up one of the babies. If you're on a bench, sometimes they step into your lap. Since I was initially quite worried about touching the cats, I did as much internet research as I could. Essentially, people who seemed to know what they were talking about said cats would be okay to interact with.

As some ground rules of sorts, Jena and I only pet and play with the ones at the park, where there's a vet office. (Isn't that nuts? A vet office in a public park, which I think is dedicated to stray pets.) And we usually shower and wash our clothes immediately when we get home, depending on how close we got to the cats.

So far we have no problems to report. I do have an odd, small red spot on my arm, but I'm pretty sure that's from our sketchy mattress here in our apartment since I was getting those before we ever touched any cats.

2) School

Our language class is steadily progressing, although it's wearing me out a bit. Jena and I have realized that our teacher probably isn't paid to prepare lessons; she teaches eight hours a day. Consequently, during the majority of each lesson, we complete exercises in our textbooks. Depending on the day, some longer periods are broken up with explanations of grammar points that are in the book.

Jena and I are benefitting from the class, though. First, we're getting a good foundation for learning more Turkish during communicative interactions that we're bound to have over the next two years. Second, we're getting some incredible insight into the trials and tribulations of language learners. Coincidentally, last summer Jena and I both taught beginning English classes that only had two students. Jena taught Listening and Speaking, and I taught Reading and Writing. Based on my experiences as a student this summer, there are so many things that I would have done differently. So, despite my current frustration and ennui with the Turkish class, I am making progress as a language learner and I am learning how to be a better teacher.

3) Alone Time

Jena pointed out that we have been in İzmir for three full weeks today. We really haven't spent much time alone. We're kind of alone when we exercise--when I'm running and Jena's running, walking, and using the park's outdoor exercise equipment. But that's about it. This week we tried an experiment to change up the routine. I went to the park to exercise, and she stayed here to do yoga. It was successful, and I even got a little freaked out (in a good way) when I left the apartment because I realized I had never gone anywhere here alone before.

It's certainly a strange feeling to be around someone approximately twenty-four hours a day for three solid weeks. It has been really great at times, and it has been challenging at others. Some moments Jena and I look at each other and realize that we both just need a break.

I know that things will be different in Kayseri, and Jena does as well. Right now we're still feeling out how safe things are for one another in certain areas. (Most seem pretty safe.) And we're feeling out one another's personalities as travellers. While some people might readily go separate ways to explore, Jena and I appear to be the type to make carefully calculated decisions that include the other person. We're security guards for one another, but we're also able to drive the other person up the wall once in a while.

When we get settled in a permanent residence, things will sort themselves out. Jena and I will inevitably develop separate friendships, and work will provide us with the alone time we're used to. For now, we're just learning how to be a newly married couple in somewhat bizarre circumstances where we're destined to see each other most moments of the day.

To conclude, it's now past midnight, which is time to go to bed (even if it is a five-day weekend--thank you Ramazan). Jena and I will be heading to Istanbul to see Özge in a little over a week, and the change of setting ought to do our spirits some good. From there we don't even know where we'll go. Ankara, Antalya? Who knows.


  1. There's a 4th way to get free books for your kindle: download them from your library, assuming you have your library card:

  2. There is also ... you can always buy the book later if you liked it and want to support the author.